Lifestyle

Meet Creatively

We’ve all done it. Every company tries to create a new, inviting and exciting environment in the same old conference room. If we’re being honest with ourselves, innovation and passion for the task at hand can be severely diminished in a four-walled room that very rarely has windows. Experts agree that meetings or conferences should […]

We’ve all done it. Every company tries to create a new, inviting and exciting environment in the same old conference room. If we’re being honest with ourselves, innovation and passion for the task at hand can be severely diminished in a four-walled room that very rarely has windows.

Experts agree that meetings or conferences should have a specific agenda, end time and a break every 30 minutes. But what are you doing to ensure the quality of work produced by your team is excellent? Here in the Lehigh Valley there are a few venues to choose from that can easily give your organization a change of pace for a meeting but “none quite like Bell Gate Farm” says owner Stephanie Stevens.

The Environmental Challenge:

Leadstrat.com is a wonderful resource for when meetings become mundane and unproductive. They supply articles, lists of ideas and even facilitators when necessary. Specific ideas for “spicing up your space” include: removing the table from the meeting room, having couches and comfortable chairs on hand, playing Mozart in the background and even meeting outside. These suggestions present their own challenges, how many companies other than Google have extra living room furniture on hand? Hotel ballrooms are a popular alternative for corporate meetings, but the price companies pay for the convenience of having accommodations on site, and the reality that you’re still in that “same old format” takes away from the objective of thinking outside of the box to engage leadership and creativity from your group.

The Issue of Space:

Take a moment and compare your client facing spaces to your internal spaces. The difference is almost always the amount of room devoted to windows, art, and open space. Chances are the lobby, and waiting area at your office is more beautiful and inviting than any conference room on site. Employees need both emotional and physical space in order to be effective and engaged. The Harvard Business Review states: “The open office has a lot of critics these days. But it remains the dominant form of workplace design for a reason: It can foster collaboration, promote learning, and nurture a strong culture.” Unfortunately, not all industries lend themselves to an open office 100% of the time; financial or legal for example; but there is a solution for when a more open and collaborative space needs to be utilized.

Planning and Timing:

How many times has a meeting been called inconveniently at 4:30 PM on a Friday with no set end time? How productive have those meeting ever actually been? Timing, planning and meeting space are essential when expecting a positive result from key players in your organization. Plan a meeting midweek and serve breakfast or lunch to break up the week and encourage a positive attitude towards the tasks at hand. “Midweek specials” scheduled offsite are especially effective as it encourages the group to create something together to foster familiarity. Michael Wilkinson, Managing Director at Leadership Strategies states “If they create it, they understand it, they accept it, and they own it.” Imagine your group, in a new setting at a strategically timed meeting solving issues for your company in a productive and positive manner. How do you find such a space?

The Solution:

Hotel conference rooms or restaurant private rooms are not a solution that will solve the issue of bland or mundane meeting spaces for your team. Bell Gate Farm, located at 7081 Bell Gate Road in Coopersburg Pennsylvania has both indoor and outdoor spaces to choose from that will easily supply a healthy change of environment. 233 acres of land and amazing views provides the literal and emotional space needed for a productive meeting.

Stephanie Stevens put a lot of thought and energy into each choice she made for her state of the art venue. She ensured that the spaces could be used for more formal events such as weddings or fundraisers but also created an intimate touch that lends the environment to more collaborative and creative corporate meetings. Her personal originality and ingenuity are adamantly represented in each piece of comfortable furniture available in the space, and she even foresaw the needs of a traditional corporate meeting space such as televisions for presentations or the ability to speak to a large group with individually controlled speakers and microphone access.

“I really hope this article inspires people to mix it up a little when it comes to their next important meeting” – Stevens

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Dining out in Italy

Many anniversaries are celebrated over a great meal in a special restaurant. With direct flights from Philadelphia and Newark, it is so easy to spend a long weekend in Rome, Milan or Venice.  The recent addition to high-speed trains allows for quick access to other cities. In honor of Network Magazine’s second anniversary, we are […]

Many anniversaries are celebrated over a great meal in a special restaurant. With direct flights from Philadelphia and Newark, it is so easy to spend a long weekend in Rome, Milan or Venice.  The recent addition to high-speed trains allows for quick access to other cities.

In honor of Network Magazine’s second anniversary, we are celebrating by listing our favorite restaurants in Italy that are perfect for any type of celebration.   Whether you are planning a short trip or a longer vacation to Italy there are some important things to know about dining in Italy that is different from here in the states.

Up until a few years ago, restaurant etiquette included ordering multiple courses that included an antipasto, primo (pasta or soup), secondo (meat or fish), cortono (vegetable side) followed by a salad and dessert.  Coffee is served after dessert, not with it.  Dinner is an event, intentionally taking a few hours to complete.  Italians feel that the meal is to be an experience and to spend valuable time with their family or friends.  While the courses are small, it still can be too much for most visitors, and even the younger generation of Italians is making a shift from the traditional style of dining.

You will no longer see a raised eyebrow from your waiter if you don’t follow these old-world traditions, but the crucial rule of restaurant dining is that you should order at least two courses.  That waiter will still expect to order a primo and a secondo or an antipasto followed by a primo or secondo, or a secondo with dessert. Traditionally, a secondo is not a “main course” that would serve as a full meal. It’s a common mistake for tourists to order only a secondo, thinking they’re getting a “main course” complete with side dishes. What they wind up with is one lonely piece of meat.

Gone too are the days when a type of restaurant told you what type of menu it offered. An Osteria used to be a very casual place, similar to a British tavern. It was a place where you could get a quick, inexpensive meal from a limited menu with the option of renting a small room for the night, where the children hung out after school and departed when the men came in after work.    A Trattoria meant you were in a family run eatery, the mother usually was cooking, and the family members served your food.

The simple hearty food was available served on wooden tables without tablecloths. The Ristorante was reserved for special occasions; jacketed waiters served meals from a professional chef in the kitchen offering an extensive menu and table-side cooking.   Now the lines are blurred and include Pizzeria, Enoteca, Baccaro, Café, Pasticceria and Tavola Calda, so it’s important to look at the menu posted outside the entrance.

Eateries are quite used to diners who order courses to split; but, if you’re not so hungry, you might head for a pizzeria or baccaro to sample some quick bites.  There are no ‘doggy bags’ in Italian restaurants.  Italians don’t like leftovers, preferring to cook each meal from scratch.  Only in the past few years have Italians started taking out food from restaurants, pizzerias or grocery stores, but the doggy bag is still a difficult idea for them to grasp.

The most frequent question we get from our villa renters is on tipping.  There are still differences of opinions throughout the travel community, but we asked our people on the ground that included our Italian relatives, owners of villas, tour guides, drivers and restaurant owners and they all came up with the same response:  Italians expect a tip from Americans because it has always been our custom to tip, it has become the barometer of their quality of service. They don’t expect it from Italians or other Nationalities. We tell our guests it is not mandatory, but if you feel you must tip, no more than 10% of the bill.   Before you do tip, check the bottom of your menu for the words servizio incluso that means the service tip is included, and you can then leave a little loose change as an expression of gratitude. Note that it servizio incluso most likely not be on the bill, so you must look for it on the menu.

TIPS = To Insure Proper Service started in 17th-century Taverns of Britain and was embraced by Americans shortly after with much resistance.
Waiter!  The check, please!  It is considered rude for a waiter to give you a check without asking for it.  Many Americans will become frustrated by not getting the check, ruining a perfectly wonderful meal and blaming it on the waiter.  Most restaurants seat only once, your table is yours for the night.

Italians consider it rude to chase you out of their establishment by presenting a check.  When you are ready for your check, just ask the waiter, Il Conto, per favore.  (ill CONto Pear FA vor eh).

If you find you can’t honor reservations, please call so they can offer it to another guest.  Their livelihood depends on it.

The following restaurants range from small family run inexpensive places to elegant 5-star dining, all suitable for celebrating a special occasion.

ROME
Il Bacaro – this is one of Rome’s most romantic restaurants, small and cozy located on a little alleyway.  A creative menu will make it one of your not to be missed places. On a beautiful summer night, opt for the vine covered terrace, candle lit in and out.  Via degli Spagnoli, 27 +39 06 687 2554
La Pergola – the best restaurant in Rome, by the famous German chef Heinz Beck. Elegant and extraordinary it is located in the Cavalieri hotel offering the most incredible view of the city.

Antico Arco offers the best dishes from around the 20 regions of Italy with a contemporary flair. They have an extensive wine list and always changing by the restaurant’s own sommelier.  Piazzale Aurelio 7, this restaurant is in the quiet residential area called Gianocola.    Reservations a must +39 06 581 5274

Baby –   the ‘offspring’ of the famous Amalfi coast Dal Alfonso 1890 holds up to the expectations of this world-renowned restaurant as well as the steep prices.  Chef/owner Alfonso and his son Ernesto comes up from the Amalfi coast at least one day a week to plan menus and overseeing the restaurant.    Vial Uiisee Aldrovandi, 15

FLORENCE
Trattoria Sostanza – One of Florence’s best, this trattoria has been around since 1869 before Italy was unified.  You will be sitting among Florentines any day of the week.  They serve the perfect Bistecca Fiorentina the right way. Or try the chicken with butter and the artichoke tart.  Via del Porcellana, 25 +39 055 212691

Ristorante Cibréo and Trattoria Cibréo – choose from the elegant and more expensive ristorante or the casual trattoria.  The food comes out of the trattoria’s kitchen and walked over to the ristorante. The difference is the menu at the trattoria is smaller and less expensive.  One of Italy’s best restaurants.  Ristorante via dei Macci 118r, Trattoria Via de Macci 112r +39 055 234 1100

Enotecca Pinchiorri has the highest Michelin star rating, and is fit for a king down to the Renaissance palace dining room. They offer the best of Florence, Tuscan and Italian cuisine and the largest wine list in Italy.  Via Ghibellina 87,   +39 055 242 777

VENICE
Ristorante Quadri – two stories above the famous coffee house on the Piazza San Marco, book far in advance to reserve one of the couple of tables that look down over what Napoleon called Europe’s living room. The owner of the famed Le Calandre restaurant is in charge of the kitchen, serving food that has a complexity not normally associated with the simplicity of Italian cuisine.  For more traditional Venetian cuisine and lower prices, the abcQuadri on the ground floor is also a special treat. No matter you dine at one of their restaurants, make sure you end your first night at the café tables outside with a nightcap while you listen to the orchestra.   Piazza san Marco 121

Osteria Boccadoro – in a quiet neighborhood with little foot traffic you will find this charming, elegant restaurant right on the edge of a campo (piazza in Venetian).  Request an outside table in the warmer months for a beautiful and romantic setting. Campo Widman, Cannaregio district +39 041 521 1021

Trattoria alla Rivetta –  For years it was the lunch spot for neighboring merchants and gondoliers before reaching all the guide books.  For an exceptional experience call Patrice at Papavero Villa Rentals for the name of her favorite waiter who will make you feel like a native.  Salizada San Provol, +39 041 528 7302

MODENA
In 2016 Osteria Francescana was named the number one restaurant in the world.   In 2017 it came in second but still holds the number one position as the best restaurant in Europe.   This Michelin three-star osteria is in the culinary capital of Italy, the Emilia Romagna region, known for Bolognese sauce (just call it ragu in Bologna), Prosciutto, parmagiano cheese, and the true balsamic vinegar.  The Getting a table here is harder than getting tickets to Hamilton, the reservation book opens three months out and you can reserve on line.  Via Stella, 22 Modena

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The Magic of Wine

Drinking Time and Space Did you ever stop to think that when you are drinking a glass of wine, you are actually drinking the elements of time and space and eons of geological evolution? In a sense, wine grapes are tiny, juicy, complex time capsules that have captured the energy of the sun, gained sustenance […]

Drinking Time and Space

Did you ever stop to think that when you are drinking a glass of wine, you are actually drinking the elements of time and space and eons of geological evolution? In a sense, wine grapes are tiny, juicy, complex time capsules that have captured the energy of the sun, gained sustenance from the soils and weather conditions during their months-long ripening process and delivered all of this through the magic of fermentation to the glass in front of you.

Winemaking is first and foremost farming, and like many other crops, grapes are sensitive to the conditions where they are grown. Bananas like the tropics, apples prefer cooler climes, and various grape varieties are no different – Riesling prefers mildly cooler zones, whereas Bordeaux varieties thrive in warmer conditions.

But on a much finer scale than most crops, grapes can absorb detailed nuances in the geological and climate conditions where they are ripened. And unlike many crops that are quickly consumed after harvest, wine grapes are given a second life through the process of fermentation that preserves them, capturing their expression of the time and place where they were grown, sometimes for decades.

This character can easily be dissipated – too much oak and the wine tastes like oak. Poor soils and overcropping result in mediocre wine. Blend and manipulate the wine and the sense of place disappears in a sea of winemaking techniques and processing. But quality-oriented practices such as restricting yields, hand harvesting, minimal intervention and processing in the winery, all enhance a wine’s ability to preserve and express the elements of where it was grown.

Perhaps nowhere else is the essence of terroir so closely regulated and obsessed over than in the vineyards of Burgundy’s Cote D’Or. Over millions of years, geological evolution has created the fault lines, erosion and complex shifts in the ground underfoot that make each vineyard unique. Over hundreds of years, the vineyards that adorn these precious slopes have been farmed and observed, with every subtle nuance noted.

Each vineyard is delimited, named and ranked from basic Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc, through Village level, and up to the revered Premier and Grand Crus. Tiny differences in the mix of limestone and marls, or the position on the gentle slopes, can mean the difference in quality that is reflected in prices that can be hundreds of dollars per bottle different – even for wines made from grapes grown just a few meters apart in some cases. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown here are the conduits through which the elements of these fabled terroirs are conveyed. In Burgundy and many other regions, “place” is the key to a wine’s quality.

If the bones of a wine’s character are determined in the vineyard, it is during the growing season that its final expression is set. There are numerous conditions and risks that grape growers have to confront, many of which can influence the final wine. A quick look at the growing season gives some insight as to what farmers have to contend with to create a perfect bottle of wine.

The best years are those suited to grapes’ goldilocks personality – they like things juuust right. A dream vintage has a perfect balance of minimal but well-timed rainfall, warm, sunny days that are not too hot, and cool nights. These are conditions that set the stage for a slow rise of sugars, allowing time for the grape’s flavors to develop while acidity stays fresh and all of the grape’s components come together in perfect harmony.

In more challenging years, cool conditions may result in wines with higher acidity, more structure or greenish tannins, and less concentration and flavor and a shrillness. Hot years can show the heat with pruney, overripe notes, lower acidity and higher alcohol or wines that can be somewhat flabby. In these years, growers and winemakers have to adapt their vineyard management and winemaking practices to minimize the effects of the weather to produce the best wines they can. But the signature of the vineyard and vintage often remain an indelible component of the wines’ story.

In the end, the wine in your glass is the culmination of all of the influences of the vineyard where it was grown, the specific conditions during the season, and the winemakers’ touch, with each year unique in terms of its style. So the next time you enjoy a glass of wine remember – you are drinking in a time and place, and experiencing a unique liquid expression of a year’s worth of sun, earth, and hard work, all captured in a grape. Cheers!

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Cigar Reviews Summer 2017

5 Vegas Gold Toro Honduras 6.0”x50 Mild 92-Rated Silky at first glance, this golden Toro has a pleasant, barnyard pre-light aroma and feels solid. The Ecuador Connecticut wrapper is gorgeous, and graces a well-aged blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan long-leaf tobaccos. The smoke is creamy. Almost buttery. Spice greets my palate upfront, eventually giving way […]

5 Vegas Gold Toro

Honduras 6.0”x50 Mild
92-Rated

Silky at first glance, this golden Toro has a pleasant, barnyard pre-light aroma and feels solid. The Ecuador Connecticut wrapper is gorgeous, and graces a well-aged blend of Honduran and Nicaraguan long-leaf tobaccos. The smoke is creamy. Almost buttery. Spice greets my palate upfront, eventually giving way to ample hints of peanut and cashew. There’s even a slight sweetness mixed in, which lasts until the spice returns for a finale. Mild, yet incredibly eventful, this is a daily burner for sure.

Diesel Rage Torpedo

Nicaragua                            5.0” x 56               Medium-Full
93-Rated

Earth. Vanilla. Coffee. Sweet cedar. Spice. I’ve burned a ton of Diesel Rage(s??) and the 56-ring Torpedo showcases these flavors in grand fashion. Ecuador Habano Sun Grown wrappers extra-fermented to an Oscuro state hug a ligero-laced recipe of Nicaraguan long-fillers spawned by Cuban seeds. The result: a luxurious marriage of strength, complexity, and balance that grows more intense throughout the burn but never overwhelms. Tons of big boy flavor delivered in smooth fashion, that’s Rage.

Mi Querida SakaKhan

Nicaragua                            7.0” x 50               Medium-Full
92-Rated

All Nicaraguan long-fillers mingle inside a dark and toothy Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. All are aged extensively and blended to perfection, creating Mi Querida. This Churchill-sized vitola unleashes a wealth of chocolate and sweet Maduro undertones from the get-go, opening up midway through to unveil espresso, oak, earth, and a dash of pepper. It’s tasty, and jam-packed with tobacco to burn super slow. Consider Mi Querida your sleeper pick that covers the spread, and then some.

Padron 1964 Anniversary Series Imperial Maduro

Nicaragua                            6.0” x 54               Medium-Full
95-Rated

Since grandma was a girl, this gem has been a darling among cigar enthusiasts. I decided to burn the Imperial Maduro to tell you why. This dark, 54-ring cigar is dense, solid from head to toe, and feels heavy in the hand. Upon lighting, a rich, lush bouquet smacks my palate and coats each taste bud with heavy, creamy smoke. After a few minutes, the richness gives way to a deep core of coffee, cocoa, earth. A unique nuttiness lingers on the finish, and is complemented by hints of spice and toast. No twists or turns throughout the burn, just a complex, superior handmade worthy of celebration.

Partagas Black Label Clasico

Dominican Republic        5.25” x 54             Full
93-Rated

This beast is dark and oily to the touch. Once burning, thick clouds of gray smoke fill my office. Aromatic clouds, smelling of charcoal and earth. Love that. The flavor is big and chewy, dishing out robust notes of earth met by a delicious touch of leather just before the exhale. Retrohale (exhale through the nose) to appreciate the true full-flavored nature of Partagas Black – you’ll discover layers of subtle nuances, including coffee bean and black pepper. Expect a slow, satisfying burn from this cigar.

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Plan Your Winter Vacation Now

The Arrabelle dubbed the “Holy Vail of Luxury Ski Resorts” If skiing in the Alps has always been on the top of your to-do list, but the inflated Euro, increased travel warnings in Europe and those long flights to Austria have made travel there less than appealing; simply pack your suitcases and head to Vail.  […]

The Arrabelle dubbed the “Holy Vail of Luxury Ski Resorts”

If skiing in the Alps has always been on the top of your to-do list, but the inflated Euro, increased travel warnings in Europe and those long flights to Austria have made travel there less than appealing; simply pack your suitcases and head to Vail.  Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Vail, Colorado, is home to the 2nd largest single ski mountain in North America and a winter wonderland of lavish chalets and world class resorts.

Vail is easily accessed by Eagle airport and the 30-minute shuttle takes you directly into Vail city center.  Like a postcard from Switzerland, Vail is reminiscent of a small European ski village.  Resorts line the narrow streets that blend with the design and feel of Vail’s original Alpine developers and every 15 minutes free buses loop the town dropping off skiers, shoppers, or diners throughout the quaint village.  I was amazed at the mounds of 10 feet of snow found at the ends of the streets, but not a single speck of snow or ice could be found on the sidewalk.  I soon learned that the sidewalks are heated, and protected speakers that project sounds of trendy music are discreetly tucked in among the scenery.  This is the great OZ of upscale ski towns and home to a new resort that puts skiers “wants” first.

In the heart of Vail Square, at the base of the Eagle Bahn Gondola, is the less than 2-year-old Arrabelle Resort. Vail square’s prime location that contains upscale boutiques, an ice rink, and fire pit makes the Arrabelle the crowning attraction.  This seven-story boutique hotel is the crème de la crème of a ski in/ski out lodges.  The Arrabelle’s team of designers extensively traveled to the heart of Europe’s famous alpine locations in order to recreate the feel of an authentic and iconic Alpine resort.

Throughout the resort, fireplaces crackle and windows are perfectly positioned so that when you sit fireside, the views of the slopes are spectacular.  This lavish resort features 62 elegant rooms/suites that average 550 square feet.  Every room contains a classic canopy bed with rich red hues and a fireplace.  High-end flat screen TV‘s, DVD players, BoseTM MP3/CD alarm clock radios, complimentary high-speed wireless Internet access,  in-room safe and humidifier are standard in every room.

The large stylish marble bathrooms include a shower and separate tub, double sinks, another TV, plush bathrobes and over the top heated floors.

Every guest is served by a butler and customer service standards here rise to incredible levels.  Slope side ski and boot valets epitomize the 5-star experience created to exceed the standard “ski” resort inclusions.

Endless amenities for Arrabelle’s guests include access to their stunning heated rooftop pool and hot tubs which not only provide exclusive privacy but also offer sweeping views of the mountains. The Arrabelle’s Spa and fitness center is an astounding 9,000 square foot facility that features six massage rooms, two facial rooms, a Vichy Shower/Swiss Shower room and a couple’s therapy room. At the end of a long ski day, the spa offers treatments that focus on feet, ankles and sore leg muscles. It’s no wonder that the Arrabelle’s story like picture perfect location and luxurious amenities have an Olympic downhill gold medalist, Lindsey Vonn, calling it her home.

However, if by chance you are not staying at the Arrabelle while you are in Vail, you can still get a sampling of the vintage yet totally chic vibe at one of their two highly rated restaurants. Centre V and Tavern on the Square beckons visitors of Vail Square with its inviting atmosphere and upscale ambiance. The European influenced Centre V is a romantic spot with candlelit tables and French cuisine.   Tavern on the Square is a pub where guests can cozy up and enjoy après-ski.

The Arrabelle’s European flair and prime location combined with over the top amenities only add more glamour to the Austrian-like village that has brought ski lovers, celeb’s and families to Vail for years.

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You Can Get There From Here

Vacation air travel can be a huge hassle. When looking to fly to your vacation destination, though you prefer to fly out of Lehigh Valley International, that usually means a connecting flight to Philly or Newark.  In order to get a non-stop flight, you have to drive an hour and a half. Using general aviation, […]

Vacation air travel can be a huge hassle. When looking to fly to your vacation destination, though you prefer to fly out of Lehigh Valley International, that usually means a connecting flight to Philly or Newark.  In order to get a non-stop flight, you have to drive an hour and a half. Using general aviation, you have access to thousands of nonstop destinations not easily reached by the airlines.  While many airlines offer direct flights to vacation hot spots, there are more than a few locations where they can’t go non-stop. Take Key West for example. Many airlines provide flights in and out of the island; however, none are non-stop from our area. This is due to the shorter runway in Key West. Larger commercial aircraft cannot safely take off and land. Most carriers will have a connecting flight near the Miami area, where you will be required to board a smaller aircraft or finish with a long drive.  General aviation aircraft are able to fly into Key West direct from anywhere in the Northeast.  Another great vacation spot is St. Simons Island in Georgia.  SSI is a prime location next to several resorts and golf courses.

While there is an airport on the island, no airline offers commercial flights to this location. Once again, this is due to a short runway.  Airlines will fly into Brunswick airport, just north of the island, requiring another drive to get to your ultimate destination.

Often with air travel, you will find delays at major airports. Whether it is a departure or an arrival delay, it can cost you valuable time. Luckily, there are many smaller airports around major cities that make traveling easier through private aviation. Unlike the airlines, which are restricted to a set schedule and routing, a private aircraft is able to skirt around delays by choosing an alternate airport that is less congested.  From there, operators are able to help arrange ground transportation to take you to your final destination, often getting you there before the airline has even taken off.

If you have ever thought of taking a destination vacation out of the country, you may know how difficult it can be to ensure you have the proper paperwork (don’t forget your passport or visa!) and find flights that work around your travel dates. Private aviation is here to make international trip planning a breeze. One of the more increasingly popular destinations is Cuba. Since the travel restrictions to Cuba have been eased, many have engaged in the idea of “stepping back in time” and visiting the quaint island. Being that the travel restrictions have just recently been lifted, it may be confusing as to what information you need to provide before your trip. While general “tourism” is still not allowed, there are certain categories of travel that may apply to you such as “people to people,” where you will be interacting with locals and learning about their culture. Let general aviation operators help you through the process of confirming which category you could fall under. Most operators have contacts in Cuba to even help plan your day to day itinerary and make the most of your visit.

There is no need to worry about visas and other requirements. Provide the flight operator with your passport information and everything else is handled for you. Upon landing in Cuba, you will find all customs and immigration paperwork has been filed accordingly, and you can be on your way to an exciting adventure. The same applies to your return flight back to the States.  A U.S. Customs agent will meet you plane-side and clear you on location. No more waiting in long lines to be seen by the next available agent. You can be on your way home from a relaxing vacation less than ten minutes after landing.

Whether you are looking for the most direct flight or are planning an international trip, call your local general aviation operator, LR Services, and explore a new kind of travel that is easier, faster and smarter!

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Cigar Reviews: Spring 2017

Torano Exodus Robusto Honduras   5.0 x 54   Medium 92-Rated Torano. No stranger to unique blends, has whipped up something special with this new Exodus. Complexity is an understatement, as this 54-ring Robusto dishes out layers of chewy flavors with each puff. Tobaccos from five countries were utilized, and smoothly combine beneath a dark and […]

Torano

Torano Exodus Robusto

Honduras   5.0 x 54   Medium

92-Rated

Torano. No stranger to unique blends, has whipped up something special with this new Exodus. Complexity is an understatement, as this 54-ring Robusto dishes out layers of chewy flavors with each puff. Tobaccos from five countries were utilized, and smoothly combine beneath a dark and toothy Honduran wrapper. Oak, earth, leather, sweet spices, cedar…and so much more. All delivered gracefully throughout the medium-bodied bouquet. Cuban-esque from head to toe, this pretty handmade delivers.

Aging-Room

Aging Room Small Batch Fortissimo M20

Dominican Republic    5.75” x 47   Full

92-Rated

I love this size. A little salomon-shaped figurado, softly box-pressed and finished with a pigtail cap. A Mexican wrapper from the famed San Andres wrapper glistening with oils. A powerful blend of Dominican long-leaf ligeros inside a feisty Dominican binder. Upon lighting, you know this cigar has spent some time in the aging rooms. The palate is instantly greeted with creamy notes of cedar and toast. Every few puffs a peppery blast reminds me of the ligero within. So smooth, so creamy, and the burn is gradual, enabling me to savor every little nuance.

Oliva-Melanio

Oliva Serie ‘V’ Melanio Torpedo

Nicaragua   6.5” x 52   Medium-Full

95-Rated

Chocolate bar. You’ll agree once you grab a Melanio for yourself. The pre-light aroma ignites visions of a warm loaf of bread. The initial light offers a blast of black pepper, but quickly tames to showcase a wide range of rich flavors. Leather, coffee and cream first, then cedar, cocoa, and toast upon reaching the midway point. Towards the end, the pepper returns to deliver a robust finale that’s downright delicious and exceedingly satisfying, despite surprising. Get ready for a treat, my friend.

Nat-Sherman

Nat Sherman Timeless Nicaraguan 749

Nicaragua   7.0” x 49   Medium

91-Rated

Dark and toothy, this Churchill is solid from head to toe. Comprised entirely of aged Nicaraguan tobaccos, Timeless is a departure from the Nat Sherman you may know. Dense nuances blanket the taste buds throughout the burn. Notes of cocoa and cedar are prominent, while a lingering hint of dried fruit sits long after the exhale. The bouquet is mellow yet sophisticated, gradually evolving into a creamy core of coffee and earth tones. Expect big flavor delivered elegantly, and a slow-burning experience made complete by a fancy white ash.

Alec-Bradley

Alec Bradley Tempus Quadrum

Honduras   5.5” x 55   Full

94-Rated

For this review, I burned four of them. Not because I needed to, but because I love them. So yes, the Tempus Quadrum earns an easy ’94,’ and is something you can burn one after the other. You can stop reading here and go find one, or you can stay, and I’ll tell you about the robust notes of rich flavors this box-pressed beauty emits. Nicaraguan and Honduran long-fillers mingle inside a Habano wrapper to deliver gobs of richness, including oak, cedar, nuts, coffee, and sweet pepper. The burn is slow and true, and the profile grows stronger with each smoke-filled puff. Enjoy!

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amalfi

Summer on the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi coast draws over five million visitors a year. Driving the 33 mile, two-lane road that hugs the natural coastline in high season may seem more like a parking lot, but since every square inch of real estate offers the most incredible views, it’s the only traffic jam that brings peace and tranquility. A […]

The Amalfi coast draws over five million visitors a year. Driving the 33 mile, two-lane road that hugs the natural coastline in high season may seem more like a parking lot, but since every square inch of real estate offers the most incredible views, it’s the only traffic jam that brings peace and tranquility.

A UNESCO world heritage site, this road is nestled between walls of rock on one side and the sparkling blue sea on the other.   Full of white-knuckle hairpin bends, sharp curves, and cliffs jutting 650 meters above the azure blue sea for centuries it was a mule path and today the width is still the same. This coastal road connects the famous and other less known fishing villages that locals considered to be more like neighborhoods than separate towns.  You can have breakfast in Ravello, lunch in Amalfi and dinner in Positano on the same day, yet this area is best to appreciate at a slow pace.

It’s easy to unwind here. The constant soft breezes scented with lemon blossoms, and a vast array of Mediterranean flowers all mingled with the salty sea; the brilliant colors of the Majolica domes, bright pink and fuchsia bougainvillea climbing against whitewashed houses, and the expanse of a shimmering sea, all under the warming yellow rays of the sun is pure bliss.

The Amalfi Coast is not for those with walking difficulties. The villages are built on a vertical terrain. It’s common to take 500 to 1,000 steps to reach a restaurant, hotel, or villa but you are always rewarded with breathtaking views. Let’s not forget the food – buffalo mozzarella made that very day from farms outside of Paestum, the birthplace of limoncello made from the Sfusato lemons found only in this area, and guarantees that the fish you had for lunch was swimming in the sea that morning.  There are surprisingly good wines from the surrounding vineyards of Ravello and owners welcome you to visit.   Don’t forget Naples, where they say pizza was created, and you can find a handful of small pizzerias in the Old Town center that make claim to this invention.  It’s worth a trip to Old Town where you are also witness to the authentic life of the Neapolitan’s day, and the person next to you lives nearby.

Besides the three well-known villages of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, there are 10 other fishing villages that are delightful to visit – each one offering something special in addition to great restaurants, good shopping and many with beaches or quiet coves ideal for a mid-day break.   Take the hydrofoil to Capri or Ischia for the day, rent a boat with captain and have lunch at a restaurant reached only from the water followed by a swim off the boat in a small empty cove.  Visit the ruins of the Greek city of Paestum and afterward visit a buffalo farm to see how buffalo mozzarella is made, stay for lunch.   Visit the Palace in Caserta before heading inland to the small town of Caiazzo, for truly the finest pizza you will ever eat.

Patrice Salezze was co-owner of Appennino Ristorante and now Papavero Villa Rentals, offering a portfolio of villas throughout Italy.  For our list of favorite restaurants on the Amalfi Coast, please call her at 610 224 1004 or email her at patrice@PapaveroRentals.com

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Wines of the Rhône Valley

With its location in the sunny south of France and beautiful Mediterranean climate, the Rhône region is well situated to producing wines that range from some of the best values anywhere in the world of wine to some of the most sought after and expensive classics. The region spans from Vienne, just south of Lyon, […]

With its location in the sunny south of France and beautiful Mediterranean climate, the Rhône region is well situated to producing wines that range from some of the best values anywhere in the world of wine to some of the most sought after and expensive classics.

The region spans from Vienne, just south of Lyon, for about 200 kilometers south to Avignon, sprawling along the banks of the valley created by the Rhône River. It is composed of two main sectors: the Septentrionale (Northern Rhône) and the Meridional (Southern Rhône), and each of these is broken down into smaller sub-appellations. The South is by far the larger in terms of production, with the North accounting for less than 5% of total Rhône wine production, and overall the Rhône is the second largest wine region in France after Bordeaux.

The north and the south are markedly different from each other in terms of climate, terroir, grapes grown, and wine styles. The Northern Rhône lies at a point where the Mediterranean and continental climate influences converge and is cooler overall. The south is full-on Mediterranean – sunny, dry and warm. The topography is different too, and the north’s vineyards often cling to the steep, rocky, terraced slopes along the narrow river valley. In the south the hills are more rolling, the valley wider. The mix of grapes changes as well, and in the north Syrah is the primary grape for the reds, and Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne for the whites.  In the warmer south, Grenache is the workhorse for the Reds, with a host of supporting varieties collectively known as Rhône varietals including Syrah, Mourvèdre and more blended in. The white can be made from a wide range of grapes including Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanche, Roussanne and more
The Côtes du Rhône AOC makes up about half the region’s production, the vast majority of which are red although some very good rosé and white wines are made as well. The reds are primarily made from Grenache and Syrah, although a host of grapes is permitted including Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Carignane. They are typically light to medium bodied, fruity with red fruits and spice, versatile, easy to drink and food friendly and generally a great value.

As the wines move up the quality pyramid, the rules and regulations on growing and production become more strict, with lower grape yields allowed and higher minimum alcohol (a measurement of grape sugar levels and ripeness). Next, come the Côtes du Rhône-Villages, similar wines to the above, but from vineyards deemed to have superior conditions and the ability to produce higher quality wines. Also, there are about 20 villages, such as Séguret, that are allowed to be labeled with the name of the village. Many are scenic medieval hill towns with vineyards located on the sloping hills surrounding them, producing reasonably priced wines that are a step up in quality, body, and age-worthiness.

The next step up are the individual Appellations, subregions that produced unique wines based on their specific soils, climate and grape varieties. There are 11 in the south, the most famous of which is Châteauneuf du Pape, made from up to 13 grape varieties that include five white grapes. Grenache makes up the majority of the blend, and most focus on two or three grapes that include Mourvèdre, Syrah in the blends. Grown in soils deposited by the meandering Rhône river over millions of years, they are hearty, full-bodied wines that embody the warm sunny region where they are born. The best can age for several decades, and top cuvees from the best producers can run into the $200-300 range. There is also a small production of Chåteauneuf du Pape Blanc produced, a blend of grapes that can include Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanche, Roussanne and more.

Gigondas is another well respected AC in the south, located in the hills of the eastern edge of the region near the jagged peaks of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Similar to Chåteaunuef in grapes composition, it is a perhaps a slightly more rugged, rustic variation on the theme that typically sells for less money, and the top producers are well worth seeking out.

The eight northern appellations are located on both banks of the Rhône. On the western steeply terraced side of the river is Côte Rôtie, producing solid, age-worthy wines such as Guigal’s super expensive La Landonne, La Mouline and La Turque that can start at about $300. Hermitage lies on the right side of the river with world renowned Jean-Louis Chave making one of the most sought after red wines in the world in the steep granite soils of the massive hill above the town of Tain l’Hermitage. His white Hermitage made from Roussanne and Marsanne grapes is equally if not more sought after, and both will set you back hundreds of dollars – if you can find them.

Condrieu and Chåteau Grillet are white wine only appellations on the west bank just south of Côte Rôtie, producing lovely perfumed and aromatic wine from the Viognier grape grown in steep terraced vineyards. Cornas, Saint Joseph on the left bank and Crozes Hermitage on the right are regions that were somewhat sleepy and overlooked but have now come into the spotlight for their exceptional Syrah based reds, as well as a much smaller production of white. They have been traditionally less expensive, but top cuvees from the hottest producers (Voge, Clape, Vincent Paris to name a few) are becoming more costly and very difficult to source.

The wines of the Côtes du Rhône are generally incredibly versatile, food friendly, and for the most part extremely affordable. With a couple of great vintages in the cellar, especially the stunning 2015’s, it is an excellent time to explore the amazing variety of wines from one of the world’s top wines regions –  from everyday affordable to some of the world’s top classics for the cellar – Cheers!

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Fantasy Island for the 21st Century

Secretly sitting in the shadows of Bora Bora’s famed great Otemanu mountain, lies a secluded private island in French Polynesia where the 5 star Le Taha’a Resort calls home.  Luxury travelers often flock to the neighboring Bora Bora isle; however, those searching for a rare paradise can take a short 10-minute flight from Bora Bora […]

Secretly sitting in the shadows of Bora Bora’s famed great Otemanu mountain, lies a secluded private island in French Polynesia where the 5 star Le Taha’a Resort calls home.  Luxury travelers often flock to the neighboring Bora Bora isle; however, those searching for a rare paradise can take a short 10-minute flight from Bora Bora to the island of Raiatea where you are escorted by a boat transfer to the private island of Le Taha’a.  The 40-minute boat transfer skirts past crystal clear Tahitian water where every scene is like a postcard.
As you approach Le Taha’a, you can see a greeting party on the dock waiting for you as if you were arriving on “Fantasy Island” itself.  As you arrive, you are given a flower lei, fruity coconut filled drink, and you are brought directly to your villa.  At Le Taha’a, over the water Bungalows flank the coastline and luxurious beach bungalows are scattered under the palm trees.  This resort’s privacy affords guests like Carrie Underwood, Goldie Hawn, and Tom Cruise the ability to relax and still experience all aspects and amenities that a top resort can offer.

Crowned as a Relais Chateaux resort, Le Taha’a follows the strict criteria needed to be dubbed by this elite brand.  Relais Chateaux hotels must adhere to their 5 “C” principals – charm, culture (or character), cuisine, courtesy, and calm.

In order to brand themselves Relais Chateaux, the architects took great pride in making sure all the fixtures, furniture, and structures were constructed using only materials found in the French Polynesian chain so that they could fulfill the Culture/Character guideline.  Even the toiletries feature Manoy oil and vanilla (a product of Tahiti).

The open-air lobby is designed to replicate the Tahitian Outrigger canoe, and the curves of the sails billow in the wind.  Beyond the lobby is what can only be described as a (modern) Swiss Family Robinson-like tree house, where the steps lead to a fabulous bar in which the 18-foot bar counter top is carved from wood and high among the tree tops are two of Le Taha’a’s three restaurants.

Maintaining the criteria for exceptional dining and cuisine, the chefs have created award winning dishes that can delight even the pickiest palate.  Le Taha’a consistently wins cooking competitions held annually in Tahiti and signature meals are highlighted by the menu and friendly wait staff.

The resort manager, Christine Chevalaz, proudly describes how traditions of the islands intertwine with the daily event schedule.  To bring the island’s culture to guests; canoes, snorkeling equipment and daily transfers to the main island are provided complimentary.

Every over the water bungalow includes sets of masks, and fins allowing guests to jump into the water and explore the lagoon right from their balcony.  The Thatched roof styles of the bungalows may appear rustic but don’t let the local styling fool you.  Inside every bungalow, guests are provided with plasma TVs, Bose stereos, Sense coffee makers, a mini bar, robes, slippers, Wi-Fi and priceless picture perfect views of the sunset.  Several glass covered “peek-a-boo” windows can be found inside the bungalows which display the exotic fish below and can be opened so that feeding the fish becomes a daily highlight. The shower features rocks and shells along the walls to thoroughly embody nature even among these extravagant surroundings.

The “charm” of this resort is highlighted in all the little touches, such as shell shaped lights that illuminate the walking paths at night and the carved wood directional signs that blend in among the natural setting.  Le Taha’a also has a signature spa which emphasizes “calm” and incorporates Tahitian stones, oils, and the surroundings.   Le Taha’a’s spa menu even features a “welcome” massage, which provides weary travelers with 80 minutes of authentic Tahitian therapy and the opportunity to enjoy their unique open air facilities.  Guests can also partake in the resorts facilities that include a sand volleyball court, use of their kayaks, canoes and grass tennis courts.  Additional unique experiences include cooking classes, Tahitian dance classes, snorkeling tours and full PADI dive programs.

If you still have doubts that this resort is truly a luxury 5-star property, have a peak on the other side of the island where you will find a helipad that is perfect for the jet set crowd who want to bypass the 40-minute boat transfer.  If disappearing in paradise means bringing along the whole family, Le Taha’a also has a top-notch Children’s program, and each room comes complete with children’s slippers and robes.  Dining for children is discounted at 50% off of regular prices and beach toys, life jackets and children’s sized snorkeling gear come complimentary.  Le Taha’a makes sure that restless adventurers do not get bored, so daily boat tours for snorkeling and fishing trips operate regularly.

However, I found a perfect hammock between two palm trees that was just the ticket to absorb the absolutely gorgeous landscape.  As the sun set on the horizon and the sounds of the calm South Pacific waters became nature’s stereo, I took a deep breath and tried to make a mental snapshot so I wouldn’t dare forget this secret spot in paradise!

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